Sunday, February 6, 2011

The lure of International Art Centres (IACs)

Wanting to think about some drawings I have been doing I wanted to see where my work fit in with some of the artists whose work I really relate to. In that search I came across a Kenyan blog with a post on Wangechi Mutu. I really enjoy her work as it is really aesthetically pleasing and seems to meld Western aesthetics with images that reflect and challenge ideas about African imagery. The work is political but bathed in the glow of beauty so it makes me want to just look. While enjoying that act of looking, ideas, stories and questions seep in.

However the issue at hand was that the writer of this article was taking a Canadian art critic to task. The said critic, Murray Whyte was not in agreement of The Art Gallery of Ontario's expenditure to mount a major show for a non-Canadian artist. Of course the writer for 'Breaking News Kenya' found this ever so slightly offensive if not more. I bring this up as a post because Caribbean artists may or may not find that many grants and opportunities for exhibiting close to the International Art Centres (IACs)*, mostly found in 'developed' nations, are directed towards citizens. This can prove frustrating at times as the Caribbean artist goal is to exhibit work in these IACs.

On the one-hand viewpoints like Whyte's find validation in that the country's taxpayers support the institutions that curate culture. In a manner of speaking it can be understood as an agreement with taxpayers to pooling resources to ensure that for e.g. Canadian Art becomes globally recognised. ....But  that may only cover one side of the equation. A country's museums and galleries also bare the responsibility of putting on exhibitions that show new and global perspectives and expose that country's people to other world views and ideas. I add this because surely those creatives who can undertake dialogues about the world and 'ART' extends beyond artists within the borders of any one particular country. Surely the importance of an artists voice depends on more than their classification as a citizen of a particular nation.

What do you think about this? The link to the original article is below. Do you feel that location, citizenship etc. privileges an artists success within International Art Centres of the world? 

This being said as I consider whether relocating to an IAC such as London or New York or Paris or Tokyo etc. may be a better career move than living and working in our hometown. What do you think about this: Do you feel that the Art World is globalizing meaning an artist could live anywhere in the world and still gain exposure or is it that the main International Art Centres remain as edgy because they are attracting more international artists? What about citizenship-clause policies like Whyte's as discussed above?

Comment below to give your feedback and checkout the Breaking News Kenya article. See more about Wangechi Mutu's work on Youtube.

*The term 'IACs', abbreviated from International Art Centres was coined by myself and I am not necessarily aware of it as an official phrase or jargon in use within the field.



  1. Oneika,interesting article. I think we must realize and work with the 'exportability' of intangible heritage like Art. As much as we would like to hold on to the discipline,as being unique to a particular group or country in many respects it out-grows its borders. Art is a cross-border discipline, so I say, promote International Art Centres, knowing that this can only be good for all concerned. It seems to me that Artists should view this as moving with the pace of a "globalized" world that demands this level of 'openness' and collaborative positioning. Opportunity not to be missed.

    I just completed a post about the opportunities that we tend to miss in this over-lapping and delicate industry.Can be stifling when we fail to pursue the very things staring us in the face, that are only meant to be for our own good; our country's good.

  2. Hi Janice, I would be keen to see your recent post about opportunities available so as to share with my art students here in Barbados...we are currently researching various possibilities out there...

  3. Hi Analee,

    Thanks for your query.

    Please note that the post to which I refer is specific to Jamaica. Recent developments in the country once again spurred the debate that Jamaica has yet to fully explore the potential of its heritage assets, particularly its intangible heritage.

    That said, note that my area of expertise is concentrated on the economic development of cultural heritage assets. There is therefore a strong focus on heritage tourism, particularly at the community level.

    I work with cultural/indigenous communities in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in identifying opportunities to develop and position the global competitiveness of their unique assets.

    In relation to Art, I feel this is one discipline that has had linear development and exposure in tourism within island states. My belief is that islands must seek to create a distinctive heritage spectrum. This means making the linkages and overlaps of the heritage industry work for ALL stakeholders. It also means exploring in a responsible and strategic way the exportability of Art (as noted in my previous comment).

    Cultural heritage tourists come in all packages; they have various specific tastes. However for the most part they tend to be sophisticated, educated, savvy, smart, curious and they yearn diversity in cultural experiences.

    The Art landscape is developing with such distinctiveness, I strongly believe Artists (especially those fortunate to be aligned to cultural communities)are strategically positioned to make their assets competitive "products" in a booming cultural heritage tourism niche.

    I could go on and on, but I know this is already more than a mouthful! We could perhaps arrange to continue this conversation. In the meantime, I invite you to visit the blog. Ive only recently started. The intent is to "groom" the site over the year so I can eventually "open" it to students as a research base and interactive space to contemplate and debate issues related to the strategic and sustainable development of island heritage.


Thanks for taking the time to leave your thoughts.